As a child, I spent hours copying Chinese characters: a task I hated because it was so boring. Not only did I have to learn the shape and meaning of a new word, I also needed to remember its stroke sequence in order to reproduce it properly. After copying a word twenty times with much effort, I often did not know its pronunciation because the sound of Chinese words has nothing to do with their image.

Pin 拼 yin音and computers have changed all this. With 拼音, you learn the sound of a Chinese word (pronounced in the mandarin dialect) BEFORE you type (input) that character on the keyboard of your computer. Parents in Beijing, China, complain that their children no longer know how to write Chinese words because they text their friends on their mobile phones or send emails via pin 拼 yin音. With 拼音, texting and the computer, YOU too can communicate (in Chinese) with Chinese people in a very short time.

Since every Chinese word is a picture, writing Chinese is like reproducing images of different pictures. One has to place every stroke, dot and line in its proper place. Mistakes are frequent and almost inevitable. 拼音 and the computer have removed the need to write Chinese words with pen and paper.

Think of it this way. Which is easier? Recognizing a picture or reproducing that picture on paper. That’s the difference between typing Chinese characters via 拼音 onto your computer or writing the characters with pen and ink.

The word PIN 拼means putting together.

The word Yin 音 means sound.

Thus PIN YIN拼 音 mean putting together sound or spelled sound or pronouncing Chinese characters via the alphabet or standardized spelling of Chinese characters.

PIN YIN 拼音 was first developed in 1958 in mainland China. It was adopted by many overseas Chinese-speaking communities such as Singapore, Malaya and Hongkong in the 1980s. Taiwan finally accepted Pin Yin 拼音 on January 1, 2009.

You and I will learn to speak Mandarin together and read and write Chinese by using PIN YIN 拼音 and the Computer.

Type Your First Chinese Letter!

Now that you can type Chinese characters on your computer, I want you to write a letter to me, in Chinese. Please use this letter to introduce yourself to me by typing it in the Contact page.

Please don’t panic! You can do it! Trust me!

Do the following:

  1. Press Alt and Shift on your computer at the same time.
  2. Note that the language bar has turned from EN to CH
  3. Type the following sequence of letters:

ma jiao shou, ni hao ma? wo xing ________ jiao __________. wo xiang xue zhong wen. ni ken jiao wo ma? xie xie.

Your letter will look like the following:

马 教 授,你 好 吗? 我 姓__________ 叫 ___________. 我 想 学 中 文。 你 肯 教 我 吗? 谢 谢。

Type it again several times to practice:

ma 马 jiao 教 sho 授 ni 你 hao 好 ma 吗? wo 我 xing 姓 ____ jiao 叫___. wo 我 xiang 想 xue 学 zhong 中 wen 文, ni 你 ken 肯 jiao 教 wo 我 ma 吗?

The letter says the following, in Chinese:

Professor Ma, How are you? My surname is _______, given name is ________. I want to learn Chinese. Will you teach me? Thank you.

Let’s begin this letter to me by typing the first character ma 马。

When you press ALT and SHIFT at the same time, the language bar changes from EN to CH and you are now typing Chinese characters. Please look carefully at the appearance of the character you have just typed.

After you type ma followed by the space bar, a character appears 麻 that may look completely different from the 马 you are looking for. This is because every Chinese word has only one syllable. Therefore, there are many Chinese characters pronounced ma. When the character you see is not the one you are looking for, please type the left arrow key. A vertical or horizontal row of nine Chinese characters now appear, each with an Arabic number next to it. 1 麻 2马 3 玛 4 妈 5骂 6抹 7摩 8蟆 9 嘛. When you see the character you want, type the number next to it (2 in this case) and the correct ma 马 appears. If 马 is not present among the first list of nine characters, please click the tiny arrow at the end of the list and more characters (all pronounced ma) will appear for you to choose from. Altogether there are 16 different ma characters and you will find 马 among them.

If all these characters are pronounced ma, how do you distinguish one ma from another when you are speaking? That’s done by the tone you use when you pronounce ma.